Labeja who also doubles as the Gulu Municipality NRM chairperson says the party members are fighting him because of his refusal to award them contracts and give them money for NRM functions among other things.
Two members of the National Resistance Movement â€“NRM party in Gulu have opted out of the primaries and decided to contest as independents. They are George Labeja, the incumbent Mayor of Gulu Municipality and his rival Denis Okello Oweka, an advocate.
The duo is vying for the Gulu mayoral seat. Labeja has opted out the NRM primaries for the mayoral candidate citing influence peddling. He accuses Brigadier Charles Otema Awany, the UPDF\'s chief of Logistics, Gulu District NRM chairperson Aboga Kiiza, and District party Registrar George Ebwola of using their influence to ensure that a candidate of their Alfred Okwonga sails through in the primaries.
Labeja who also doubles as the Gulu Municipality NRM chairperson says the party members are fighting him because of his refusal to award them contracts and give them money for NRM functions among other things. According to Labeja, some of the top party officials have enrolled their relatives to contest for various positions.
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His rival Denis Okello Oweka says that he has also decided to go independent because of intimidation from some top party officials. According to Okello, some party officials he didn\'t name have been pressuring him to step down. Okello, who maintains that he still love the party, warns that it might lose in election at district levels because of the influence of individuals.
According to Okello, the party is supposed to elect the best candidate in the primaries, but influence peddling by top officers only means the process is not free and fair. In February this year, Okello addressed the media in Gulu saying top NRM official from Northern Uganda had in Tangi village in Nwoya district to declare some candidates as flag bearers and mobilise for them.
However, Brigadier Otema Awany has denied knowledge of Labeja\'s allegations and the meeting in Nwoya saying Labeja is scared of competition. According to Otema, there must be democracy and that is what NRM is doing by encouraging many candidates.
He says the mayor had earlier on accused him of fronting his relative Joachim Labongo to challenge him and has now changed to Alfred Okwonga, a popular candidate. Sam Engola, the NRM vice chairman for Northern Region has confirmed receiving complaints from Labeja about top NRM officers intimidating him and plotting to make him loose the NRM primaries.
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The election for the NRM mayoral candidates is scheduled to take place on September 25th.